WATCH: Yellowstone National Park Tourist Narrowly Escapes Charging Bison

by Amy Myers
(Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

If there’s only one rule that you remember before visiting Yellowstone National Park, it’s don’t approach the bison. As permanent residents of the park, bison have learned to tolerate visitors. As long as people keep their distance, they can watch these glorious bovines wander through meadows and escort their young. But get too close and this magical moment can turn dangerous.

That’s the lesson that one Yellowstone National Park visitor learned when he walked up behind a bison on a walkway. According to Sean Swetter, who posted the video to a Facebook group dedicated to Yellowstone tourist’s antics, the man was trying to get back to his car. Following the encounter, the man’s wife even asked Swetter for bear mace to ward the bison off the trail.

Take a look.

Thankfully, the tourist was able to make a safe escape from the animal which likely only wanted to warn the man to keep his distance. As one viewer pointed out, “If that bison would have wanted that guy, he’d have had him. He just wanted him to know to leave him alone. Lucky guy for sure.”

Yellowstone Pros Point out Tourist’s Mistakes in Bison Video

There are a couple of crucial mistakes that the tourist in the recent video made. The most obvious is that the man approached a wild animal – from behind, no less. Even if that pathway is the only avenue to the parking lot, his first instinct probably shouldn’t be to challenge a bison for territory. The bison could easily see this as a threat and respond in a more defensive manner. Luckily, though, the bovine let the man get away with a still terrifying warning.

Another Yellowstone National Park pro added, “He should have just waited for bison to move on and not tried to walk by. I have been in this situation a few times and if that’s the only way to the parking lot, you wait.”

Just as alarming is the fact that the couple’s secondary reaction was to reach for a can of bear mace. While mace can be a life-saving tool in dire situations, this was definitely not an appropriate time to use it. Bear mace is a last-resort tactic for when you have no way to escape or avoid a dangerous confrontation. Clearly, this bison wasn’t looking for any trouble. The bovine was simply grazing along the side of the trail when the tourist approached it. For that reason, using bear mace on the bison could even be considered animal harassment or even cruelty.

“His wife was considering spraying it with bear spray cause the human got too close? That’s harassing the wildlife. It gave him warnings…” a third watcher added. “They should be escorted out of the park with a fine.”